My First Crush (TBD)

prasti / Creative Commons

prasti / Creative Commons

My first crush was on a boy named Michael in the seventh grade. He had bright red hair, a slew of freckles across his face, a well developed mid-puberty chin. He smiled very nicely for a 12-year-old. I used to write in my journal about Michael and how dreamy he was (using the word dreamy was, of course, a requirement when journaling about one’s first crush) -- and when any of my friends would ask about my budding romantic life, I would sigh wistfully and describe to them the shy anguish of having a crush on Michael from theater class.

Michael was real. As any good liar knows, you have to base your fib in fact, and mine was thoroughly entrenched in the possible. I had been going to school with any number of Michaels, Mikeys, Mikes, and even Mikails since kindergarten; when I said I had a crush on Michael, my options for which Michael became endless. This particular Michael was in some of my classes, too, and he was nice to me, social outcast that I was, and he did have very red hair. The only part I had fabricated were my feelings for him, which really started and stopped at wanting to be his friend because he was quite popular and charismatic.

Most 12-year-olds are inundated with imagery of first crushes, first kisses, and the magic of “young love.” From Full House reruns to the JRPG games I was playing, the concept of first love was inescapable. I liked love, I liked the thought of love -- I still do -- but I never felt it for anything other than my family and my cats. I was very let down by my first kiss and those after; whether it was boys or girls or folks in between, I never felt that infamous ‘quivering of the loins’ that I’d read about in so many discount romance novels when my public school teachers weren’t paying attention.

It took me until my third year of college to realize that I was on the asexual spectrum.

I was surrounded by people who were hooking up, falling in love, getting engaged, and raving about the wonders of sexual discovery, but I still felt nothing. For an ace, I was lucky, though. I never felt broken or wrong. The benefit of lying about my first crush and proceeding history of romance is that no one questioned whether I was ‘normal’ or not. Instead of feeling wrong, I felt exclusive. My standards for a partner were so high, so leagues above anyone else’s, that should someone bridge the mote, climb the tower, and fight off the dragon to earn entrance to my sweet, sweet boudoir, they were going to be the best possible candidate in the whole country.

While some of my college friends entered and exited toxic relationships or grew bored with their partners, I patted their shoulders and felt comforted by the fact that I didn’t have to ride this rollercoaster of heartbreak. I was in a serious, committed relationship with myself, and when someone asked me to describe my most vivid sexual fantasy over a game of King’s Cup, I felt at ease with admitting that I was demisexual.

“What is that?” one friend asked, while she sipped on an unfortunate mixture of rum, rose wine, and tequila.

“It means I don’t feel sexual urges or attractions very easily. I’m kind of more into the idea of deep personal connections and trust between people,” I explained to her, trying my very best to explain the abstract fluidity of such a word.

This concept was easily accepted, but the question still stood. The rules of an honest King’s Cup game demanded that I answer. What was my most vivid sexual fantasy, assuming I had ever had one?

I briefly considered lying, like I had in the seventh grade, and making up some devious love scene between me and a faceless stranger on a bed of rose petals with George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” playing in the background.

But who was I kidding?

I gratuitously described the scenario of snuggling up close with someone I had known for years and years, underneath a warm blanket, while we drew feather light circles on one another’s wrists. It was not exactly a sexual fantasy, but it was a fantasy of intimacy, which still counted in my mind.

By the time I graduated, the only ones left to tell of my sexual discovery were my parents -- two very accepting people who had always told me that I could bring home a man or a woman from school as long as I was happy. My father either did not notice or did not care, and I think he actually finds comfort in his youngest daughter being a self declared “prude.” My mother, though, worried.

“I’m afraid that you’re boxing yourself in,” she told me in the car, because we always seem to have these types of one-on-one conversations in the car. “You shouldn’t ignore the chance of finding someone! What if you change your mind? I don’t want you to be lonely.”    

My palms felt sweaty as I explained to her, “I’m not lonely, and this isn’t a ‘change my mind’ situation. Sexuality is… weird, Mom, it’s amorphous, and if it changes, then it changes. I would be boxing myself in if I tried to act like I’m straight.”    

To my mother’s credit, she had to watch me grow up as a social outcast. Teased in elementary school, the victim of a Regina George type scenario in middle school, and an admittedly awkward teenager in high school. She didn’t, and doesn’t, want me to give up on companionship or love because I had been blighted in the past. What she did not understand was that being demisexual did not make me lonely.

It made me feel free.    

There are many misconceptions about asexuals. Some people think that we just having found “the right person,” other people think we need to experience “good” sex, other people think we’ve just got some kind of hormonal imbalance. In reality, we are a spectrum all our own. You can be a panromantic asexual, aromantic homosexual, biromantic greysexual, and anywhere in between. We like romance, or we don’t. We want to have sexual encounters with our partners, or we don’t. For some, the lust comes easier than for others, and none of it makes us feel lonely or unfulfilled.

My demisexuality has taught me how to love myself better, because I have never needed someone else to come into my life and “show me what love is.” I have only needed to be comfortable with myself, my limits, and my wants.

I am free to feel nothing for people, I am free to find a connection, I am free to love myself, I am even free to wear chic monochrome greys at Pride every year. I am free to find my real first crush, be they a red-headed boy named Michael, a black-haired girl named Michelle, or no one at all.

Maggie Berardo